Kallen was so startled that Minis would just ask him, his mouth fell open. “I... um... Imperator... I’ve always... I’ve missed... er... it was about the disgrace... I er I...” He stopped and swallowed hard.
“Assemblyman Kallen, am I to understand that you are still smarting over what happened when we were children?” Minis leaned back, settled his chin on his hand. Of course you are.
“I... er... I ahem, I was wrong in what I did, Imperator.” He firmed his hands across his belly as if to hold himself, or settle himself to say something difficult. “You proved that to me with actual prosecution, and the judge did admit I was misguided by my elders and by the late Imperator.”
“You found out that I wasn’t like my father in tastes. Did you know that I realized you were practicing on my younger Companions?”
His chin came up. “We were all playing at that, Imperator. We were all misled by our relatives and by what the court was then.”
“Hmmm. So, how does this answer my question?”
“What I want? Imperator it would be beyond wonderful if I were once more accepted as one of the boon companions to the most High, even so diminished as to be voted....um...” He cleared his throat. “I miss it.”
You slimy, self-righteous, pandering, idiot. “Assemblyman Kallen, you understand that my few days until the Solstice ritual in the Temple are very full, and I shall not be able to host you personally at the Winter Palace.” You want to be closer to power? I’ll throw you into the tiger pit.
“Oh, certainly, I should never expect—“
“However, please do attend my beloved alesinas as he is planning a boar hunt on the seventh. My cherished wife and her alesinas have been asking me for more company – I’m sorry for the lie, beloveds. – and my adored mother has several interesting parties planned. Venomous and poisonous plant gathering parties, as I understand. You’ll fit right in. I’m so glad we had this talk, Kallen, to straighten out our differences.” And when you’re reeling and not knowing which way is safe to step, worn out completely, you’ll get to play with Ili and his companions. If we can’t keep you run off your feet and out of your miniscule mind in short order my name isn’t Minis Aan.
He was glowing with the invitation. A huge, beaming smile.
“Oh, one thing, Kallen. My wife and my mother are very strict on a gentleman’s conduct. Please bring your wife and alesinas but no... hired children.”
Kallen nearly gobbled at this bit of bluntness, turning bright, turkey wattle red. “Oh, Imperator, You Whose Hospitality is My Greatest Joy, never, never. My alesinas will be thrilled!”
“Of course. Thank you for the heads up on the petition, Kallen. I look forward to your report on how I shall do it safely.”
“Certainly, certainly, Imperator.” He went down in the full prostration and Minis waited just a moment before letting him up. “Gehit.”
The moment the door closed behind his pompous, greasy, beaming visage, Minis sat forward and dropped his face in his hands, the seals cool against his flushed cheeks. “He wants to BE me, not be with me and my family.”
“I beg your pardon, Minis?” Atzana brought his cup of kaf and set it at his elbow, sipping from it first. A servant held a basin with hot lemon water and a cool towel for him to wash his hands and face.
“Nothing. Just trying to arrange things so that Assemblyman Kallen ceases to bother me. I need to write Gan to let him know the man and his family are coming up to the Winter Palace after Ili and I do the Solstice.”
“I’ll make a note of that.” As he raised his head and reached his hands to the basin, there was a tap on the door.
“Imperator?” Matthas peered around the edge of the door, not coming in to where the booth people could see him. “Just to let you know. That fellow who is calling himself the Fehinnan Ambassador? He’s a slaver.”
“Is he, now?”Minis dried his face and hands. “Thank you. Please keep taking such notes for me. I’ll see you after luncheon in the Scarlet Rosary room and we can talk about them.”
Minis gulped his kaf, barely cool enough to not scald his tongue, and nodded at Atzana and the page who bowed out.
“I don’t have time for Kallen,” Minis mutter to himself and tugged his whites straight. “A slaver as an Ambassador?” They don’t know me very well, do they?